BARBAROSSA-HITLERS PLAN TO INVADE RUSSIA
Despite all he evidence of Hitler's intentions, the build-up of German forces in eastern Poland, the presence of million of German troops in the nearby Balkans, the Wehrmacht's conquest of Yugoslavia and Greece and its occupation of Rumania, Bulgaria and Hungary, the men in the Kremlin, Stalin above all, stark realists though they were reputed to be and had been, blindly hoped that Russia somehow would still escape the Nazi tyrant's wrath. Their natural suspicions, of course, could not help but feed on the bare facts, nor could their growing resentment at Hitler's moves in south-eastern Europe be suppressed. There is, however, something unreal, almost unbelievable , quite grotesque, in the diplomatic exchanges between Moscow and Berlin in these spring weeks, in which the Germans clumsily to deceive the Kremlin to the last and the soviet leaders seemed unable to fully grasp reality and at in time.Though they several times protested to the entry of German troops into Rumania and Bulgaria and then the attack on Yugoslavia and Greece as a violation of the German-Soviet Pact and a threat to Russian "security interest", the Soviets went out of their way to appease Berlin as the date for the German attack approached. Stalin personally took the lead in this. On April 13, 1941, Ambassador von der Schulenburg telegraphed an interesting dispatch to Berlin recounting how on the departure of the Japanese Foreign Minister, Ysuke Matsuoka, that evening from Moscow,, Stalin had shown "a remarkable friendly manner" not only to the Japanese but to the Germans. At the railway station:
|Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow|
Three days later the German chargé in Moscow, Tippelskirch, wired Berlin stressing that the demonstration at the station showed Stalin's friendliness toward Germany and this was especially important 'in view of the persistently circulation rumours of an imminent conflict between Germany and the Soviet Union'. The day before, Tippelskirch had informed Berlin that the Kremlin had accepted 'unconditionally', after months of wrangling, the German proposals for the settlement of the border between the two counties from the Igorka River to the Baltic Sea. 'The compliant attitude of the Soviet Government', he said, 'seems very remarkable.' In view of what was brewing in Berlin, it surely was.
In supplying blockaded Germany with important raw materials, the Soviet Government continued to be equally compliant. On April 5, 1941, Schnurre, in charge of trade negotiations with Moscow, reported jubilantly to his German masters that after the slowdown in Russian deliveries in January and February 1941, due to a 'cooling off of political relations', they had risen 'by leaps and bounds in March, especially in grains, petroleum, manganese ore and the non-ferrous and precious metals'. Transit traffic through Siberia, he added is proceeding favourable as usual. At our request the Soviet Government even put a special freight train for rubber at our disposal at the Manchurian border. Six weeks later, on May 15, Schnurre was reporting that the obliging Russians had put on special freight trains so that 4,000 tons of badly needed raw rubber could be delivered to Germany over the Siberian railway.
|Map of the Trans-siberian railway (red)'|
Hitler, was doing his best to contradict the rumours, but at the same time he was busy trying to convince his generals and top officials that Germany was in growing danger of being attacked by Russia Though the generals, from their own military intelligence, knew better, so hypnotic was Hitler's spell over them that even after the war Halder Brauchitsch, Mannstein, and others (although not Paulus, who seems to have been more honest) contended that a Soviet military build-up on the Polish frontier had become very threatening by the beginning of the summer. Count von der Schulenburg, who had come home from Moscow on a brief leave, saw Hitler in Berlin on April 28 and tried to convince him of Russia's peaceful intentions. 'Russia", he attempted to explain, 'is very apprehensive at the rumours predicting a German attack on Russia. I cannot believe', he added, 'that Russia will ever attack Germany... If Stalin was unable to go with England and France in 1939 when both were still strong, he will certainly not make such a decision today, when France is destroyed and England badly battered. On the contrary, I am convinced that Stalin is prepared to make even further concessions to us'.
The Führer feigned scepticism. He had been 'forewarned', he said, 'by events in Serbia...What devil had possessed the Russians', he asked, 'to conclude the friendship pact with Yugoslavia?' He did not believe, it was true, he said, that 'Russia could be brought to attack Germany'. Nevertheless, he concluded, he was obliged 'to be careful'. Hitler did not tell the ambassador to the Soviet Union what plans he had in store for that country, and Schulenburg, an honest, decent German of the old school, remained ignorant of them to the last.
|German Plane over Russia' (date unknown)|
'These manifestations, Schulenburg wired to Berlin on May 12, of the intention of the Stalin Government are calculated... to relieve the tension between the Soviet Union and Germany and to create a better atmosphere for the future. We must bear in mind that Stalin personally has always advocated a friendship between Germany and the Soviet Union'.
Though Stalin had long been absolute dictator of the Soviet Union this was the first mention by Schulenburg in his dispatches of the term "Stalin Government". There was good reason. On May 6 Stalin had personally taken over as Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars, or Prime Minister, replacing Molotov, who remained as Foreign Commissar. This was the first time the all-powerful secretary of the Communist Party had taken government office and the general world reaction was that it meant the situation had become so serious for the Soviet Union, especially in its relation with Germany, that only Stalin could deal with it as the nominal as well as the actual head of government. This interpretation was obvious, but there was another which was not so clear but which the astute German ambassador in Moscow promptly pointed out to Berlin. Stalin, he reported, was displeased with the deterioration of German- Soviet relations and blamed Molotov's clumsy diplomacy for much of it.
'In my opinion, schulenburg said, it may be assumed with certainty that Stalin has set himself a foreign-policy goal of overwhelming importance...which he hopes to attain by his personal efforts. I firmly believe that in an international situation which he considers serious, Stalin has set himself the goal of preserving the Soviet Union from a conflict with Germany'.
|Stalin at the Tehran Conference in 1943|
'Please bear in mind, he advised Berlin, that attempts to counteract these rumours here in Moscow must necessarily remain ineffectual if such rumours incessantly reach here from Germany, and if every traveller who comes to Moscow, or travels through Moscow, not only brings these rumours along, but can even confirm them by citing facts'.
The veteran ambassador was getting suspicious himself. He was instructed by Berlin to continue to deny the rumours, and to spread it about that not only was there no concentration of German troops on Russia's frontiers but that actually considerable forces (eight divisions, he was told for his 'personal information') were being transferred from 'east to west'. Perhaps these instructions only confirmed the ambassador's uneasiness, since by this time the press throughout the world was beginning to trumpet the German build-up along the Soviet borders. But before this, Stalin had received specific warnings of Hitler's plans, and apparently paid no attention to them. The most serious one come from the government of the United States. Early in January 1941, the U.S. commercial attaché in Berlin Sam E. Woods, had sent a confidential report to the State Department stating that he had learned from trustworthy German sources that Hitler was making plans to attack Russia in the spring. It was a long and detailed message, outlining the General Staff plan of attack (which proved to be quite accurate) and preparations being made for the economic exploitation of the Soviet Union, once it was conquered.
|German infantrymen watch enemy movements from their trenches shortly before an advance inside Soviet territory, on July 10, 1941|
Mr. Oumansky turned very white , Welles later wrote. He was silent for a moment and then merely said: "I fully realise the gravity of the message you have given me. My government will be grateful for your confidence and I will inform it immediately of our conversation. [The American consul in Königsberg (East Prussia), Koykendall, relayed a report specifying correctly the exact day the attack would begin. sic] If it was grateful, indeed if it ever believed this timely intelligence, it never communicates any inkling to the American government. In fact, as Secretary Hull related in his memoirs, Moscow grow more hostile and truculent because America's support of Briton made it impossible to supply Russia with all the materials it demanded. Nevertheless, according to Hull, the State Department, having received dispatches from its legations in Bucharest and Stockholm the first week in June stating Germany would invade Russia within a fortnight, forwarded copies of them to Ambassador Steinhardt in Moscow, who turned them over to Molotov. Churchill too sought to warn Stalin. On April 3 he asked his ambassador in Moscow, Sir Clifford Cripps, to deliver a personal note to the dictator pointing out the significance to Russia of German troop movements in southern Poland which he had learned through a British agent. Cripps' delay in delivering the message still vexed Churchill when he wrote about the incident later in his memoirs. Before the end of April, Cripps knew the date for the German attack, and the Germans knew he knew it. On April 24, the German naval attaché in Moscow sent a curt message to the Navy High Command in Berlin: 'The British Ambassador predicts June 22 the day of the outbreak of the war'. This message, which is among the captured German papers, was recorded in the German Naval Diary on the same day, with an exclamation point added at the end. The Admirals were surprised at the accuracy of the British Envoy's prediction. The poor naval attaché, who like the ambassador in Moscow had not been let in on the secret, added in his dispatch that it was 'manifestly absurd.' Molotov must have thought so too. A month later, on May 22, he received Schulenburg to discuss various matters. 'He wa as amiable, self assured and well informed as ever', the ambassador reported to Berlin, and again emphasized that Stalin and Molotov, 'the two strongest men in the Soviet Union', were striving above all to avoid conflict with Germany.
The extent to which the Russian Foreign Commissar was ill-informed was given public expression on June 14, 1941, just a week before the German blow fell. Molotov called Schulenburg that evining and handed him the text of a Tass statement which, he said, was being broadcast that very night and published in the newspapers the next morning. Blaming Cripps personally for the widespread rumours of 'an impending war between the U.S.S.R. and Germany' in the English press", this official statement of the Soviet government branded them as an 'obvious absurdity...a clumsy propaganda maneuver of the forces arrayed against the Soviet Union and Germany".
Even the recent German troop movements from the Balkans to the Soviet frontiers were explained in the communique as 'having no connection with Soviet-German relations'. As for the rumours saying that Russia would attack Germany, they were 'false and provocative'. The irony of the Tass communique on behalf of the Soviet government is enhanced by two German moves, one on the day of its publication, June 15, the other on the next day.
From Venice, where he was conferring with Ciano, Ribbentrop sent a secret message on June 15 to Budapest warning the Hungarian government 'to take steps to secure its frontiers'. The Germans were tipping off the Hungarians, but not their principal ally. When Ciano the next day, during a gondola ride on the canals of Venice, asked Ribbentrop about the rumours of a German attack on Russia, the German Foreign Minister replied:
'Dear Ciano, I cannot tell you anything as yet because every decision is locked in the impenetrable bosom of the Führer. However, one thing is certain: if we attack them, the Russia of Stalin will be erased from the map within eight weeks'.[This is from the last diary entry of Ciano, made on December 23, 1943, in Cell 27 of the Verona jail, a few days before he was executed. He added that the Italian government learned of the German invasion of Russia a half hour after it began. (Ciano Diaries, p 583),sic]
On the afternoon of 24 July 1943, Mussolini summoned the Fascist Grand Council to its first meeting since 1939. At that meeting, Mussolini announced that the Germans were thinking of evacuating the south. This led Count Dino Grandi to launch a blistering attack on his long-time comrade. Grandi put on the table a resolution asking the king to resume his full constitutional powers—in effect, a vote leading to Mussolini's total ousting from leadership. The motion won by an unexpectedly large margin, 19-7, with Ciano voting in favour.
Mussolini did not think the vote had any substantive value, and showed up at work the next morning like any other day. That afternoon, Victor Emmanuel III, the King, summoned him to Villa Savoia and dismissed him from office. Upon leaving the Villa, Mussolini was arrested. For the next two months he was moved from place to place to hide him and prevent his rescue by the Germans.
Ultimately Mussolini was sent to Gran Sasso, a mountain resort in central Italy (Abruzzo). He was kept there in complete isolation until rescued by the Germans. Mussolini then set up a puppet government in the area of northern Italy still under German occupation and called it the Repubblica Sociale Italiana (R.S.I.).
Ciano, having been dismissed from his post by the new government, attempted to find shelter in Germany, alongside Edda and their three children, but the Germans returned him to R.S.I. agents and he was then formally arrested for treason. Under German and Fascist pressure, Mussolini had Ciano tried [Who was his son in law, sic]. After the Verona trial sentence, a Fascist firing squad, at a shooting range in Verona on 11 January 1944, executed Ciano and others (including Emilio De Bono and Giovanni Marinelli) who had voted for Mussolini's ousting. The executed Italians were tied to chairs and shot in the back as a further humiliation. Ciano was effectively executed for dissenting against Il Duce's will. His last words were "Long live Italy!"
|The Lend-Lease Memorial in Fairbanks, Alaska commemorates the shipment of U.S. aircraft to the Soviet Union along the Northwest Staging Route|
While the Kremlin was smugly preparing to broadcast to the world on June 14, 1941, that the rumours of a German attack on Russia were an 'obvious absurdity', Adolf Hitler that very day was having his final big war conference on Barbarossa with leading officers of the Wehrmacht. The timetable for the massing of troops in the East and their deployment to the jumping-off positions had been in operation on May 22. A revised version of the timetable was issued a few days later. It is a long and detailed document and shows that by the beginning of June not only were all plans for the onslaught on Russia complete but the vast and complicated movement of troops, artillery , armour, planes, ships and supplies was well under way and on schedule. A brief item in the Naval War Diary for May 29 states: 'The preparatory movements of warships for Barbarossa has began'. Talks with the General Staff of Rumania, Hungary and Finland, the last country anxious now to win back what had been taken from her by the Russians in the winter war, were completed. On June 9 from Berchtesgaden Hitler sent out an order convoking the commanders in chief of the three Armed Services and top Field Generals for a final all-day meeting on Barbarossa in Berlin on June 14.
Despite the enormity of the task, not only Hitler but his Generals wee in a confident mood as they went over last-minute details of the most gigantic military operation in history, an all-out attack on a front stretching some 1,500 miles from the Arctic Ocean at Petsamo to the Black Sea. The night before , Brauchitsch had returned to Berlin from an inspection of the build-up in the East. Halder noted in his diary that the Army Commander in Chief was highly pleased. Officers and men. he said, were in top shape and ready.
This last military powwow on June 14 lasted from 11 A.M. until 6.30 P.M. It was broken by lunch at 2 P.M., at which Hitler gave his Generals yet another of his fiery,eve-of-the-battle pep talks. According to Halder, it was 'a comprehensive political speech', with Hitler stressing that he had to attack Russia because her fall would force England to 'give up'. But he bloodthirsty Führer must have emphasised something else even more. Keitel told abut it during direct examination on the stand at Nürnberg: "The main theme was that this was the decisive battle between two ideologies and that the practices which we knew as soldiers, the only correct ones under international law, had to be measured by completely different standards". Hitler thereupon, said Keitel, gave various orders for carrying out an unprecedented terror in Russia by "brutal means". 'Did you, or did any other Generals, raise objections to these orders?' asked Keitel's own attorney. "No. I personally made no remonstrances", the General replied. Nor did any of the other Generals, he added.
It is almost inconceivable but nevertheless true that the men in the Kremlin, for all their reputation they had of being suspicious, crafty hard-headed, and despite all the evidence and all the warnings that stared them in the face, did not realize right up to the last moment that they were to be hit, and with a force which would almost destroy their nation. At 9.30 on the pleasant summer evening of June 21, 1941, nine hours before the German attack was scheduled to begin, Molotov received the German ambassador at his office in the Kremlin and delivered his 'final fatuity'. [Churchill's expression, sic] After mentioning further border violations by German aircraft, which he said he had instructed the Soviet ambassador in Berlin to bring to the attention of Ribbentrop, Molotov turned to another subject, which Schulenburg described in an urgent telegram to the Wilhelmstrasse that same night:
'There were a number of indications, Molotov had told him, that the German Government was dissatisfied with the Soviet Government. Rumours were even current that a war was impending between Germany and the Soviet Union... The Soviet Government was unable to understand the reason for Germany's dissatisfaction... He would appreciate it if I could tell him what had brought about the present situation in German-Soviet relations. I replied, Schulenburg added, that that I could not answer his questions, as I lacked pertinent information.'
He was soon to get it. For on its way to him over the air waves between Berlin and Moscow was a long coded radio message from Ribbentrop, dated June 21, 1941, marked "Very Urgent, State Secret, For the Ambassador Personally", which began: "Upon receipt of this telegram, all of the cipher material still there is to be destroyed. The radio set is to be put out of commission. Please inform Herr Molotov at once that you have an urgent communiction to make to him... Then please make the following declaration to him".
|An Sd.Kfz-250 half-track in front of German tank units, as they prepare for an attack, on July 21, 1941, somewhere along the Russian war-front, during the German invasion of the Soviet Union'|
THE FINAL BREAK
It was a familiar declaration, strewn with all the shop-worn lies and fabrications at which Hitler and Ribbentrop had become expert and winch had concocted so often before to justify each fresh act of unprovoked aggression. Perhaps it somewhat topped all the previous ones for sheer effrontery and deceit. While Germany had loyally abided by the German-Soviet Pact, it said, Russia repeatedly broken it. The USSR had practised 'sabotage, terrorism and espionage' against Germany. It had 'combated the German attempt to set up a stable order in Europe'. It had conspired with Britain 'for an attack against German troops in Rumania and Bulgaria'. By concentrating 'all availavle Russian forces on a long front from the Baltic to the Black Sea', it has 'menaced' the Reich. Reports received the last few days, it went on, eliminate the last remaining doubts as to the aggressive character of this Russian concentration... In addition, there are reports from England regarding the negotiation of Ambassador Cripps for closer political collaboration between England and the Soviet Union.
To sum up, the Government of the Reich declares, that the Soviet Government, contrary to the obligations it assumed,
1. has not only continued, but even intensified its attempts to undermine Germany and Europe.
2.has adopted a more and more anti-German foreign policy.
3.has concentrated all its forces in readiness at the German border. Thereby the Soviet Government has broken its treaty with Germany and is about to attack Germany from the rear in its struggle for life. The Führer has therefore ordered the German Armed Forces to oppose this threat with all the means to their disposal'.
"Please do not enter in any discussion of this communication", RIbbentrop advised his ambassador at the end. What could the shaken and disillusioned Schulenburg, who had devoted the best years of his life to improving German-Russian relations and who knew that the attack on the Soviet Union was unprovoked and without justification, say? Arriving back at the Kremlin just as dawn was breaking, he contended himself with reading the German declaration. Molotov, stunned at last, had listened in silence to the end and then said:
"it is war. Do you believe we deserve that?"
[Thus ended he veteran ambassadors diplomatic career. Returning to Germany and forced to retire, he joined the Opposition circle led by General Beck, Gördeler, Hassel and others and for a time was marked to become Foreign Minister. of an anti-Hitler Regime. Hassel reported Schulenburg in 1943 as being willing to cross the Russian lines in order to talk with Stalin about a negotiated peace with an anti-Nazi government in Germany. Schulenburg was arrested and imprisoned after the July 1944 plot against Hitler and hanged.sic]
At the same hour of daybreak a similar scene was taking place in the Wilhelmstrasse in Berlin. All afternoon on une 21, the Soviet Ambassador, Vladinimr Dekanozov, had been telephoning the Foreign Office asking for an appointment with Ribbentrop so that he could deliver his little protest against further border violations by German planes. He was told that the German Foreign Minister was 'out of town'. Then at 2 A.M. on the 22nd he was informed that Ribbentrop would receive him at 4 A.M. at the Foreign Office. The envoy, who had been a deputy foreign commissar, a hatch-man for Stalin and the troubleshooter who had arranged the taking over of Lithuania, received, like Molotov in Moscow, the shock of his life. Dr Schmidt was present, has described the scene.:
'I had never seen Ribbentrop so exited as he was in the five minutes before Dekanozov's arrival.. He walked up and down his room like a caged animal...Dekanozov was shown in and, obviously no guessing anything was amiss, held out his hand to Ribbentrop. We sat down and... Dekanozov proceeded to put on behalf of his Government questions that need clarification. But he had hardly began before Ribbentrop, with a stony expression, interrupted, saying: 'That's not the question now'...
|Vladimir Georgievich Dekanozov|
|German troops in Russia, 1941"|
Thee was one other diplomatic prelude to the cannonade. On the afternoon of June 21, Hitler sat down at his desk in his new underground headquarters, WolFsschanze (Wolf's Liar), near Rastenburg in a gloomy forest of East Prussia, and dictated a long letter to Mussolini . As in the preparation of all his other aggression he had not trusted his good friend and chief ally enough to let him in on his secret until the last moment. Now, at the eleventh hour, he did. His letter is the most revealing and authentic evidence we have of the reasons for his taking this fatal step, which for so long puzzled the outside world and which was to pave the way for his end and that of the third Reich. The letter, to be sure, is full of Hitler's customary lies and evasions which he tried to fob off even on his friends. But beneath them, there emerges his fundamental reasoning and his true, if mistaken, estimate of the world situation as the summer of 1941, the second of the war, officially began.
I am writing this letter to you at a moment when months of anxious deliberation and continuous nerve-wrecking waiting are ending in the hardest decision of my life. The situation: England has lost the war. Like a drowning person, she grasps at every straw. Nevertheless, some of her hopes are naturally not without a certain logic... The destruction of France ... has directed the glances of the British warmongers continually to the place from which they tried to start the war: to Soviet Russia. Both countries, Soviet Russia and England, are equally interested in a Europe...rendered prostrate by a long war. Behind these two countries stands the North American Union goading them on...
Hitler next explained that with large Soviet military forces in his rear he could never assemble the strength,"particularly in the air", to make the all-out attack on Britain which would bring her down. 'Really, all available Russian forces are at our border... If circumstances should give me cause to employ the German Air Force against England, there is danger that Russia will then begin its strategy of extortion, to which I would have to yield in silence simply from a feeling of air inferiority........'
Germany, Hitler said, would not need any Italian troops in Russia. (he was not going to share the glory of conquering Russia any more than he had shared the conquest of France). But Italy he declared, could 'give decisive aid' by strengthening its forces in North Africa and by preparing 'to march into France in case of a French violation of the treaty'. This was a fine bait for the land-hungry Duce. As for the war in the East, Duce, it will surely be difficult, But I do not entertain a second's doubt as to its great success. I hope above all, that it will then be possible for us to secure a common food-supply base in the Ukraine which will furnish us such supplied as we may need in future. [The secret buildup of the infrastructure in the Generalgouvernement (the occupied part of Poland) to support Operation Barbarossa. sic]
Then came the excuse for not tipping off his partner earlier. 'If I waited until this moment Duce, to send you this information, it is because the final decision itself will not be made until 7 o'clock tonight...Whatever may come, Duce, our situation cannot become worse as a result of this step, it can only improve... Should England nevertheless not draw any conclusion from the hard facts, then we can, with our rear secured, apply ourselves with increased strength to dispatching of our enemy.
Finally Hitler described his great feeling of relief at having finally made up is mind.....With hearty and comradely greetings, Your ADOLF HITLER' [The letter has been abbreviated and is not the entire text, sic]
The second member of the Axis was Japan. Th story of the relationship between Hitler's Germany and imperial Japan involved a series of up and downs. Germany sought better relations with Japan initially for economic reasons. The relationship between Germany and Japan steadily improved as both countries were drawn closer by tension with the Soviet Union. Japan, along with Italy, signed the Anti-Comintern Pact, a treaty theoretically directed against the the Soviet Union, but in reality nothing more than a symbolic gesture. In Japan's case, tensions with the Soviet Union broke out into the open warfare along he border between Soviet controlled Mongolia and Japanese dominated Manchuria. The ensuing fighting resulted in two severe dubbing's of the Japanese by the Red Army. The Japanese, however, evaded attempts by Ribbentrop to bring Japan into a formal alliance with Germany. The Germans were also annoyed by what they regarded as unwelcome attempts by Japan to mediate between Germany and Poland. The relationship improved mainly due to the opposition to communism through the Anti-Comintern Pact and secondly the military alliance through the Tripartite Pact. Both nations had been adversaries during WW I and these agreements settled previous animosity between the nations through Yosuke Matsuoka's visit to Berlin, a German delegation was sent to Tokyo to celebrate the Tripartite Pact's signing, and through the Japanese ambassador to Germany Hiroshi Oshima among other correspondences. Gemany's declaration of war further solidified German-Japanese relations and showed Germany's solidarity with Japan and encouraged Japanese cooperation against the British.
At 3 0'clock in the morning of June 22, a bare half hour before the German troops jumped off, Ambassador von Bismarck awakened Ciano in Rome to deliver Hitler's long missive, which the Italian Foreign Minister then telephoned to Mussolini, who was resting at his summer place at Riccione. It was not the first time that the Duce had been awakened from his sleep in the middle of the night by a message from his Axis partner, and he resented it. 'Not even I disturb my servants at night', Mussolini fretted to Ciano, 'but the Germans make me jump out of bed at any hour without the least consideration'. Nevertheless, as soon as Mussolini had rubbed the sleep from his eyes he gave orders for an immediate declaration of war on the Soviet Union. He was now completely a prisoner of the Germans. He knew it and resented it. 'I hope for only one thing', he told Ciano, 'that in this war in the East the Germans lose a lot of feathers'. Still, he realised that his on future now depended wholly on German arms. The Germans would win in Russia, he was sure, but he hoped that at least they would get a bloody nose. He could not know, nor did he suspect, nor did anyone else in the West, on either side, that they would get much worse. On Sunday morning, June 22, the day Napoleon crossed the Niemen in 1812 on his way to Moscow, and exactly a year after Napoleon's country France, had capitulated at Compiegne, Adolf Hitler's armoured, mechanized and hitherto invincible Army poured across the Niemen and various other rivers and penetrated swiftly into Russia. The Red Army, despite all the warnings and warning sites, was, as General Halder noted in his diary the first day, 'tactically surprised along the entire front'. All the first bridges were captured intact. In fact, says Halder, at most places along the border the Russians were not even deployed for action and were overrun before they could organize resistance. Hundreds of Soviet planes were destroyed on the flying fields. Within a few days tens of thousands of prisoners began to pour in, whole armies were quickly encircled. It seemed like the "Feldzug in Polen"all over again.
'It is hardly too much to say', the usually cautious Halder noted in his diary on July 3 after going over the latest General Staff reports, 'that the "Feldzug" against Russia has been won in fourteen days'. In a matter of weeks, he added, it would all be over.
FINAL- HKS, May 2013
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